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Scene Systems reconstructs scenes such as Sully's crash landing

When big bucks are at stake, law firms will often pay computer animators a lot of money to reconstruct crime scenes or other events for juries to visualize.

Scene Systems has created an animation system just for that purpose. The video below gives a taste of what it can do. With two days, the company reconstructed the flight of US Airways Flight 1549 as it ran into birds, lost both engines and then safely landed on the Hudson River.

It costs a lot of money to build such scenes from scratch. Law firms spend that money because lay juries often can’t picture what the lawyers are painstakingly trying to illustrate. But Scene Systems has built its own engine that can be used to animate all sorts of scenes, from car accidents to murder scenes.

While game engines, such as Unreal Engine 3, can be used for this kind of reconstruction, Cambridge, England-based Scene Systems can promise that its animations are accurate when it comes to the physical interactions inside the animations.

The company was founded in 2001 as a software research lab, funded by successful software entrepreneur Philip Swinstead. The lab spun out its first company, Antics Technologies, in 2004 to commercialize software for real-time animation in consumer and professional markets. In 2007, Antics withdrew from the consumer markets, since the software was too hard for consumers to use. For tech-savvy people, such as the hired guns working for law firms, it takes just a couple of days training to learn.

Then the company rebranded itself as Scene Systems. In 2008, Scene Systems decided to focus on the legal sector, selling the animation software to police departments and law firms. The key to success here is that the software can be used to recreate scenes on very short notice, and the scenes can easily be tweaked as needed, said Dan Nunan, chief executive officer.

“If they want to change the color of a car or the time of day, they can do so,” he said.

So far, the company has signed up about seven police departments and 20 law firms, ranging from small firms reconstructing auto accidents to big law firms. The typical flat fee for the software is $10,000 to $50,000, depending on the depth of detail required.

The company has opened offices in Manhattan Beach, Calif. and will open one in New York to target law firms. It has 18 employees. To date, it has raised $8.3 million. Investors include Philip Swinstead, Cem Cesmig (Newtonmore Advisors), Sophia Antipolis, and Caprilles Investment Fund.

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